Friday, April 12, 2013

Eight Days in the Canary Islands -- Day 4

I don't usually eat breakfast. I think this habit started 30 years ago when, unaware that I had Celiac Disease, I ate bread for breakfast and then suffered nausea and bloating all day. I'm perfectly happy to have my coffee and then have lunch at around 1:00p.m. I've made an exception for the AIDA Sol. It's free.

Alexander the Pool Shark returns from the breakfast buffet with a mountain of food that appears to contain the following items: smoked lox; copious amounts of greasy undercooked bacon; potatoes; grilled mushrooms; massive hunks of gorgonzola, feta and cheddar cheeses; three fried eggs; four link sausages, and a partidge in a pear tree.

"What's that pink sauce on the top?"

"Strawberry yoghurt."

Buffets are evil. They encourage people to eat in ways they'd usually find cringeworthy. Today I've chosen yoghurt with berries, apricots, bananas, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, walnuts and pineapple. It's obscene. Devilish. I know I'll regret it.

Today--though I don't know it yet--we are going to visit what will become my favorite island among the Canaries. I already know, however, that Grand Canaria will never even make my top 100. Bad memories. Don't ask. Suffice it to say, these memories include alcohol and the taste of pavement.

La Palma is the greenest of the Canary Islands and the least frequented by tourists. The name of the island is sort of confusing. See, almost every place in the Canary Islands is called La Palma or Las Palmas or Santa Cruz or Porto Cruz or Cruz Palmas, Palma Cruz, Santa Palma, Porto Palma. I don't know. There were a lot of Cruzes and Palms when they were handing out names. But did you know that La Palma's name is not really La Palma? It's--get this--San Miguel de la Palma. And the English Wikipedia page ignores this completely.

This confirms suspicion, though. I don't think many American tourists visit the Canary Islands. In facet, very few tourists in general ever go to San Miguel (de la Palma)--only around 100,000 a year, which amonts to only 1% of tourism in the archipelago. I guess most tourists here want to lounge in the sun on a pretty beach with millions of other people (who will have some sort of skin cancer in their futures). I can't lounge for very long on the beach, and I try to stay out of the sun as much as I can. Hiking in a rainforest is more my style, so I'll be back to San Miguel (de la Palma).

La Palma is also very well known for its struggling banana industry. If the EU would loosen its restrictions on how long a banana should be, the island would probably be doing a lot better. The Cavendish banana is the one grown on the island right now, but there's a problem with it (don't ask me what exactly it is; I was listening to the guide with one ear and dozing off with the other), which means that within ten years La Palma will have to grow another type of banana or its industry will disappear altogether. Out in the open on La Palma, this banana doesn't grow as long as it does in other parts of the world, so some communities have begun growing them in enclosures (not really greenhouses) that rip apart in the wind and litter the island with plastic.

I know, this part was much more informative than you're used to here at I Must Be Off! Sorry. Be sure to visit the rum distillery. I tried the gran reserva, and then I went wild and had a taste of the banana liqueur. Um, yuck? Yes, yuck.

Continuing with the information (sorry): Did you know that a crazy guy who thought the world was ending set fire to the church door in Santa Cruz (see!) de la Palma? The fire was put out before it damaged the church, but the scars are sadly visible. The door is made from the pine that grows on the island, and it's rare now or protected or illegal to cut down. I'm not really sure about this: the guide told us this part AFTER the rum distillery. But wait! There's more! The info just keeps spewing and spewing. Did you know that La Palma is famous for a goat's cheese made from the milk of goats who are fed only a sweet flower that grows only on La Palma? And did you know this cheese is so mild that it doesn't taste like anything really? Oddly, the natives are proud of this

A few more impressions of San Miguel de la Palma:

San Miguel de la Palma

Bananas. Bananas and more Bananas

The wine was tasty. The cheese tasted like paper.

We get back to the ship by 3:00 p.m. and "train our bodies" again before dinner. I also go to the sauna for my shoulder with a hundred naked Germans.

At dinner, Alexander the Pool Shark returns from the buffet with his plate-mountain of the following foods: venison ragout, carpaccio, Greek olives and sundried tomatoes in a sauce, Brussels sprouts, massive chunks of pineapple, sautéd kolrabi and carrots, and sushi (tuna).

"What's that red sauce on the top?" I ask.


I pour myself another glass of red wine as I hear through the ship's PA system Enya begin to sing "Sail Away," which means we're leaving the port of La Palma. I raise my glass and sing along, "Sail Away, Sail Away, Sail Away." I get misty, sing louder. Alexander tells me to shut up.

"You can't drink too much tonight."

He's right. I'm singing later at karaoke. Shut up. I sing. I enjoy the joy applause brings. Karaoke aboard the AIDA Sol turns out to be a roaring event with free champagne for the singers. I insist on getting mine up front. Sadly, I have no pictures to show. I'm no fool. 

Tomorrow Day 5 of my Eight Days in the Canary Islands.

I must be off,


Christopher Allen is the author of Conversations with S. Teri O'Type (a Satire) about a gay man in his forties struggling with expectations. Available from Amazon Anything.